How an Annotation Works

To annotate means to add notes or additional information on a topic. You can use annotations in various disciplines, including in law, where an annotation follows the statute's text. It can be in the form of a note, summary, or commentary to explain something. Writers also use annotations in bibliographies.

A statute is a written law passed by a legislative body such as Congress or a state legislature. You can use annotations to summarize a regulation and explain how to interpret and apply the law. It can summarize court decisions or describe a case or legal issue.

An annotated bibliography refers to a list of citations concluded with a 150 to 200 word summary or analysis of the sources. The summary is considered the annotation regarding the quality and relevance of the sources cited.

Examples of Annotations

Annotations exist in various disciplines, including law, engineering, software development, literature, and education. Textual scholars use annotations to add additional historical context to documents. In education, the process of highlighting, labeling, commenting, or naming in texts can help students process learning materials.

The field of computational biology uses annotations to make sense of sequences DNA genomes. A DNA annotation is a note added to explain an identified gene and what it does.

In law, legal publications such as Lexis Nexis and Thomson West provide annotated versions of statutes. These documents explain how courts have interpreted a law. Since the federal U.S. Code and state statutes are subject to interpretation by courts, it can be valuable to know how different courts make interpretations for rulings.

Significance of an Annotation

In law, annotations following a statute can make it easier for someone to interpret how to apply the laws. The summary condenses complex, lengthy content and describes what decisions were made. Annotations are also useful tools in legal research when reviewing how different courts interpret statutes.

Annotated bibliographies are helpful for the reader to understand the significance of the sources cited. For the writer, annotations can also help with thesis creation after sources have been collected and analyzed. Annotations also allow writers to see if their sources pass the CRAAP test, which stands for:

  • Current
  • Relevant
  • Authoritative
  • Accurate
  • Purposeful

In books, annotations can support reader engagement. They can add context, provide clarifications, or be reminders for the content within the text.

Types of Annotations

In bibliography annotations, you can use different types of content to summarize sources. Annotations can use one type or a combination of the following three:

  • Indicative Annotations: describing the sources and their main points.
  • Informative Annotations: providing a summary and explaining the relevance of sources.
  • Evaluation Annotations: comparing and contrasting sources, including why you included a source.

History of Annotations

Annotations are as old as writing and recording information is. Around 1000 AD, it was common to annotate in Talmudic commentaries and Arabic rhetorics treaties. During the Medieval era, scribes copying manuscripts would add annotations in the margins. These marginal annotations have developed to become what we refer to as footnotes and endnotes in publications.

Annotation vs. Notation

Annotation refers to additional information added to a text. You usually write annotations in summary form. An annotation can be a form of notation. However, a notation also refers to symbols representing numbers, elements, or amounts, such as in mathematics or music.